Drumming up some culture

Three-hundred-strong drum circle to come to Olympic Plaza

While a drum may be one of the oldest and simplest instruments in the world, it can still take years to learn. In fact, it can take an entire lifetime to master the craft - and for Mbuyiselo "Munkie" Ncapayi, that's a fair trade.

Having starting his path towards drum mastery when he was just six-years-old, Ncapayi found himself drawn to those with the ability to produce such mesmerizing sounds in his hometown of Langa in Cape Town, South Africa.

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"After watching the locals and watching the people playing I picked up a drum myself, but it wasn't a drum really, more of a tin drum," recalled Ncapayi, who's now based in Vancouver. "I practiced on those kind of things and later, when I was 12, I made my first drum and then from there it never stopped."

Having taught himself the basics of the djembe, a popular type of drum, through trial and error, Ncapayi went on to learn various techniques from others in South Africa.

"The djembe drum, I played that like everybody else, but within that, with your skills over the years, it just develops into something of your own," he explained. "On top of the West African style, I've created my own style of mixing my other life experiences from around the world and put that together to come up with something unique."

Those international life experiences came as a result of Ncapayi joining up with a traveling dance group, which eventually landed him in his future home, Canada.

"So was able to I travel to Canada in 1994 for the Commonwealth Games and that's how I discovered Canada," explained Ncapayi. "Ten years later, I decided I wanted to come back and share my talents and experiences from South Africa and moved here."

When he came over, Ncapayi also took it as an opportunity to branch out Drum Café, an organization he founded in South Africa dedicated to putting on drumming workshops and performances.

Drawing inspiration from the cultural history of South Africa, Ncapayi has since been using his skills to not only entertain and teach those about African drumming, but also using the art form as a therapy method for autistic children.

"The drumming itself is a healing tool because of the sound and vibration, and when you hear the drum it actually changes your mind when you feel the vibration," explained Ncapayi. "The drum is healing when I hear them play - just by playing a drum it changes and the mood of the kid changes."

According to Ncapayi, drums have been used as healing tools in Africa for hundreds of years.

"We've used drums for healing, not just for playing and fun," he said. "We can heal the sickness, when people get sick over there people would just play the drums all night long and the sickness would be gone the next morning and they would feel much stronger and much better and (have) hope."

When asked how the drum compares to other instruments such as a guitar or piano, Ncapayi said there's just something about a drum that is more powerful than any other instrument.

"It brings people together, memories back, brings joys back, sadness back," he said. "It's part of funerals, weddings, social life, day-to-day life, part of everything and it brings people together like others cannot."

And it's that kind of feeling Ncapayi hopes to generate when he comes to Whistler this weekend as part of the celebrations following the North Face Whistler Half Marathon. Not only will Ncapayi be here to do a performance of his own, but he will also host a 300-person drum circle with audience members.

"We're going to have 300 drums and everybody who is coming to watch the race (will have the chance to play)," said Ncapayi. "That's another challenge of the drum but once they come together it will be something special and the Whistler Village will be able to hear it (for) days to come. It will leave an echo in people because drumming is part of a human being."

Ncapayi and the Drum Café crew will be performing in Whistler Olympic Plaza following the North Face Whistler Half Marathon on Saturday (June 2). The event is free to attend and the festivities will kick off around noon, following the completion of the marathon.

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